Dangers of Dowry
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Dangers of Dowry

By Sana Naz @sananazp

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India a woman is burnt every 58 minutes as a victim of the dangers of dowry. 

In countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh it is common for families to invest in their daughter's dowry instead of her education. 

Dowry is a transfer of the money, goods, or estate from a woman's family to her husband's estate in marriage. The transaction can involve the exchange of furniture, linen, money, etc. I've seen my own relatives participate in this harmful institution and I've wondered why it continues.

On its face the practice would seem to be thrust upon women by their patriarchs but women, and even mothers, play a role in continuing the use of dowry. Parents begin to invest in the property and gifts that will comprise their daughter's dowry instead of investing in the education and health of their girls. Families often feel that investing in the prospect of a "successful marriage" is of the highest importance for their daughter's future.

However, at its foundation, dowries are a mechanism used to determine the worth of a bride. When in-laws and husbands feel that the bride's worth is below their expectations or the woman's dowry is "insufficient" violence often ensues. The consequences of dowry violence include divorce, physical abuse, attacks with acid, marital rape, and even murder. It is also common for bride's new family to mercilessly harass and taunt the bride for bringing insufficient dowry.

On March 21, 2016, a 27 year-old housewife hung herself to death over dowry harassment in Okalipuram, India. For 2 years, she was married to a man who teaches in an international school. I feel upset, disappointed, and sad to see this practice and the harassment associated with it to be perpetuated by an educator. Why are families continuing this practice? Perhaps education and awareness are necessary to fight this social evil.

As I mentioned earlier, parents do not spend much money on educating girls. Many believe the costs are better spent on dowry. Even philanthropic efforts go into supporting the archaic custom of dowry. Few people come forward to save the lives of women who are being beaten and harassed, dying from lack of maternal care, and being limited by a lack of a proper education. 

I believe an investment in girl's education yields an extraordinary benefit for society. When a family invests in a woman's future through education instead of dowry, women are able to provide for themselves, their families, communities and nations. And hopefully, if given the opportunity to learn about their rights and liberties, fewer women will have lives controlled by the decisions of others.

Sana Naz – Correspondent (Karachi, Pakistan)

Sana Naz is our youngest team member. Currently enrolled at the Bahria College, Sana has an intense passion for equality, arts and education. In addition to her work with HER, she is a member of the Pakistan Youth Parliament, National Youth Forum of Pakistan, and Karachi Youth Assembly. Born in the United Kingdom, but currently residing in Karachi, Pakistan, Sana is well acquainted with the complexity of international relations.